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Rave Reviews for the November 9 Book Discussion Read


The Architecture of Happiness by Alain de Botton. Discussion Leader: Patrick Lee Lucas, Department of Interior Architecture. Monday, November 9, Hodges Reading Room, Jackson Library, 7:00 pm. Space still available—RSVP now to Kimberly_lutz@uncg.edu or at http://library.uncg.edu/fol/register/ .

This promises to be a great discussion—check out the book’s reviews:

It would be hard to overstate my praise for this book. De Botton is a graceful and engaging essayist, miraculously combining both levity and profundity. For anyone such as myself, who is appreciative of architecture but not especially knowledgeable, this is the perfect initiation. The book itself is beautiful, with over a hundred illustrations. If you have never thought about the importance of the buildings that provide the settings for our lives, The Architecture of Happiness will change that fact forever.
--Kevin Gill in Entertainment Today, 08 March 2007
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For de Botton, almost every building not only has a character, it influences our own. We are, he writes, "for better or for worse, different people in different places." Like the persons we meet, architecture can make us happy; but it can also, perhaps more often, make us miserable: "In a hotel room strangled by three motorways, or in a waste land of run-down tower blocks, our optimism and sense of purpose are liable to drain away." Dirt, disorder, and failures of d├ęcor can also be deeply injurious. "What will we experience in a house with prison-like windows, stained carpet tiles and plastic curtains?" Clearly, we (or at least anyone reasonably sensitive and perceptive) will experience horror and dismay. Yet as de Botton points out, "we are never far from damp stains and cracked ceilings, shattered cities and rusting dockyards."
--Alison Lurie in The New York Review of Books, 15 March 2007
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"Buildings speak - and on topics which can be readily discerned," de Botton argues. "They speak of democracy or aristocracy, openness or arrogance, welcome or threat, a sympathy for the future or a hankering for the past."

Suddenly, the reader intuits why the architecture of Disney World seems unsettling or eerie and why it's easier to believe in God in Westminster Cathedral than in the McDonald's restaurant nearby. Perhaps the richest chapter in "The Architecture of Happiness" is called "The Virtues of Buildings," which amounts to a concise, globe-trotting survey of architectural order, balance, coherence and elegance. De Botton balances his pages with instructive examples of the ugly.
--Karen Long in The Cleveland Plain Dealer, 24 September 2006
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Something is wrong with the building.

Perhaps it's the vinyl siding. What the homeowner chose to cover up 25 years ago, wooden clapboards sheathed and sightless underneath, and forgotten, is worrisome. Or the problem might be the anachronistic attempt at re-creating an Italian garden with cheap materials: cement lions and clay urns, faux-aged to look classical, when anyone can tell they came from Home Depot.

You can't exactly put your finger on it (Is it the relationship of the window frames to the amount of glass? Or the width of the column to the weight it supports?), but it is all wrong, and the building makes you dissatisfied, or angry, or just plain depressed.
But why? Can that unease even be expressed? And when a building manages to give us solace, or a door seems harmonious, or a home reinforces a state of mind, what is the formula that explains their success?

Such is the quest embarked upon by "The Architecture of Happiness," Alain de Botton's erudite and readable treatise on the aesthetics of architecture.
--Ethan Gilsdorf in San Francisco Chronicle, 4 October 2006

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